Stressful events – a byproduct of life for babies in the NICU – may increase their heart rate and blood pressure, while decreasing their oxygen levels.([FOOTNOTE=Peng N-H, Bachman J, Jenkins R, et al. Relationships between environmental stressors and stress biobehavioral responses of preterm infants in NICU. J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2009;23(4):363-371.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]) Even sensory and environmental stimuli we take for granted, such as a simple touch and noise and bright lights, can affect physiologic responses such as heart rate, respiration, and oxygen saturation1,([FOOTNOTE=Smith JR. Comforting touch in the very preterm hospitalized infant: an integrative review. Adv Neonatal Care. 2012;12(6):349-365.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
The additive impact of multiple stressors over time may have profound long-term consequences on the lives of NICU babies.([FOOTNOTE=Newnham CA, Inder TE, Milgrom J. Measuring preterm cumulative stressors within the NICU: the Neonatal Infant Stressor Scale. Early Hum Dev. 2009;85(9):549-555.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]) In the rapidly developing perinatal brain, repeated neonatal stress may have long-term effects on the central nervous system,3 including effects on neural structure, function, and development.3,([FOOTNOTE=Smith BA, Gutovich J, Smyser MD, et al. Neonatal intensive care unit stress is associated with brain development in preterm infants. Ann Neurol. 2011;70(4):541-549.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
Neonates may experience as many as 16 stressful procedures a day.([FOOTNOTE=De Lima J, Carmo JB. Practical pain management in the neonate. Best Pract & Res Clin Anaesth. 2010;24:291-307.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
NICU sound levels may range from 54-117 dB. The sound of a jet taking off is 125 dB.([FOOTNOTE=Brown G. NICU noise and the preterm infant. Neonatal Netw NN. 2009;28(3):165-173.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
A neonate’s skin is approximately 40% to 60% thinner than an adult’s.([FOOTNOTE=McNichol L, Lund C, Rosen T, Gray M. Medical adhesives and patient safety: state of the science. Orthop Nurs. 2013;32:267-281.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
Neonatal exposure to stressors is highest in the 14 days after birth.([FOOTNOTE=Smith GC, Gutovich J, Smyser C, et al. Neonatal intensive care unit stress is associated with brain development in preterm infants. Ann Neurol. 2011;70(4):541-549.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
Watch how the staff of Rush University Medical Centre combats neonatal stress.